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What is the significance of periodontal-probing depth measurement?


This question was submitted by a general dentist: What is the significance of periodontal-probing depth measurement?

Dr. Sayed Mirbod, representing the Canadian Academy of Periodontology (CAP), provided this initial quick response:

Probing depth measurement is an essential part of any complete periodontal examination. Probing-depth measurement provides the clinician with an accurate estimate of the size of the denuded root surface. Periodontal probe in a healthy shallow pocket approaches the anatomic sulcus, which is in contrast to cases involving gingivitis or periodontitis. The difference between probing-depth measurement and anatomic measurement of the sulcus, or pocket depth, appears to be due to the increased accumulation of inflammatory cells in the tissues (1). In other words, in a patient with untreated periodontal lesions, the probing-depth measurements will generally tend to overestimate the anatomic sulcus by 1-2 mm.

Deeper probing depths are associated with high levels of infiltrated connective tissues causing less repeatable measurements, more frequent bleeding , more difficulty for patient and therapist to clean and maintain, higher levels of anaerobic pathogens, and a greater risk of disease progression and frequent indication of loss of attachment (2).


  1. Magnusson I, Listgarten MA. Histological evaluation of probing depth following periodontal treatment. J Clin Periodontol.1980;7(1):26-31.
  2. Greenstein G. Contemporary interpretation of probing depth assessments: diagnostic and therapeutic implications. A literature review. J Periodontol. 1997;68(12):1194-205.


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